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Thursday, May 14, 2015

SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY -- Blu-ray+CD Review by Porfle

Jess Franco's immediate follow-up to his relatively well-made VAMPYROS LESBOS is another dark, death-shrouded vehicle for the lovely and exotic Soledad Miranda (again billed as "Susann Korda") featuring some of the same castmembers including Paul Müller, Ewa Strömberg, and Franco himself.

The result, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY (1971), is a slasher/revenge thriller which stands with his previous effort as one of my two favorite Franco films so far.

The storyline this time is lean and simple--genetic research scientist Dr. Johnson (Fred Williams) commits suicide after his maverick work with human embryos is viciously derided as inhumane by his peers, who suggest he be not only imprisoned but even executed for such atrocious ideas.

Devastated, his devoted wife (Soledad Miranda, known only as "Mrs. Johnson" throughout the film) vows revenge against the four scientists she holds responsible for her husband's death. These are Prof. Jonathan Walker (Howard Vernon), Dr. Franklin Houston (Paul Müller), Dr. Crawford (Ewa Strömberg), and, last but not least, Jesús Franco as the understandably nervous Dr. Donen.

Even before the murders begin, we get an idea of how casually perverse SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is when we learn that Mrs. Johnson is keeping her husband's death a secret in order to have necrophilic relations with his corpse. While this may sound romantic on paper, it comes off as a bit strange in practice.

Soledad Miranda handles these scenes as she does all her others, with a smoldering intensity that is always enhanced by her dark, exquisite physical beauty. When she becomes a seductive femme fatale, donning various guises to stalk her male and female prey before brutally killing them, her presence always fascinates.

As Franco's muse for all-too-short a time, she seems to inspire him to do some of his best work. For example, the death of Dr. Crawford (Strömberg, who played Countess Carody's lover in VAMPYROS LESBOS) is artfully choreographed and shot, with the added visual flair of having the hapless woman suffocated with a clear plastic pillow through which we can still see her anguished face.

The murders of the male victims are more brutal and violent, although much of this is suggested rather than graphically depicted. Still, it's shocking enough to see Mrs. Johnson going through the motions of castration and aggravated genital mutilation (Franco's unfortunate shlub of a character gets special attention) on a level usually reserved for the most agregious rape-revenge plots.

This emphasizes just how deranged she is and to what extent she must sadistically torture and degrade the objects of her wrath as punishment for driving her husband to suicide. These scenes are heavily sado-masochistic as well.

A limited collector's edition, the handsome 2-disc Blu-ray+CD set from Severin Films is in 16 x 9 widescreen with 2.0 sound. The soundtrack is German with English subtitles. Extras consist of a 20-minute Franco interview, an interview with Soledad Miranda historian Amy Brown (the same one found in Severin's VAMPYROS LESBOS set), an interview with "Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jess Franco" author Stephen Thrower, a brief interview with actor Paul Müller, and the original German trailer.

Disc two is actually a music CD entitled "3 Films by Jess Franco" containing tracks from VAMPYROS LESBOS, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY, and THE DEVIL CAME FROM AKASAVA. These 24 musical tracks by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab are offbeat and enjoyable--much more so, in fact, when isolated in this way than when heard as backing for scenes which, in my opinion, they're often wildly inappropriate. I found much of this music to be terrifically listenable.

Although still displaying that unpolished quality characteristic of Franco's work, SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY is more crisply wrought and thematically unfettered than his other films I've seen. And as a companion piece to VAMPYROS LESBOS, it stands as a fitting testament to the talent and appeal of Soledad Miranda, whose promising career was so tragically cut short by a fatal car accident soon after filming was completed.

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(Stills shown are not taken from the Blu-ray.)

Other Jess Franco reviews from HK and Cult Film News:



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